Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 9
By the end of the night, the four riders from Zone 4 had given themselves an apt new group nickname: “We’re the clean team!” joked Lindsey Toothman.
The Zone 4 riders (Toothman, 15, on Jean Claude, Barclay Powell, 16, on Cookies & Cream, Julia Curtis, 13, on The Waterboy and Breanna Holmes, 14, on American Hero) picked up only 8 penalties over two rounds of jumping to finish first in the USEF Pony Finals jumper team championship. The Zone 7 team took silver with 12 faults and the U.S. Pony Club team won bronze with 39 faults.
This was the second night of jumping for the pony jumpers—they had an individual qualifying round yesterday—and riders found this course much tougher. Several riders were eliminated due to multiple refusals, including a few at the first fence, and a triple combination and rollback turn both proved tricky. All eight teams' riders jumped around it once, and then the top three teams were called back for a second round over the same track.
“The course tonight was a lot more difficult than last night, but it put up a challenge for us to concentrate on,” said Powell. “We had to learn to get around more tactfully and show the technique we have. It was great. I had a ton of fun.”
“The triple was my favorite part,” added Holmes. “It was so fun, and you just bounce right through. It’s easier for my horse when the jumps get higher because he respects them more.”
But despite the harder parts of the course, Curtis and Powell, Gainesville, Fla., both jumped clear rounds the first time around. Holmes, Guntersville, Ala., picked up 4 penalties, and Toothman was the drop score with 12 penalties. The winning team finished the first round tied with Zone 7 on 4 faults and the riders knew they'd have to stay focused if they wanted the victory.
“I was not really prepared for the first round,” said Toothman, Carrollton, Ga. “My pony did great. He was listening, but I made a few mistakes. I knew what I did, I watched a video and went back in and did my best.”
Toothman’s clear round in the second round helped seal the Zone 4 victory, and Curtis, the team’s anchor rider, didn’t even have to jump for gold. Holmes also jumped a clean second trip, with Powell having just one rail down.
"I qualified last year even though I’d only had my pony for a few months," said Toothman. "Last year I got fifth in the farewell class, but this year I wanted to go in and do way better because I have a lot more experience. We’re serious in the ring, but outside of the ring we’re goofy and weird. I wanted everyone to be connected as a team. We all texted each other getting ready."
Powell has ridden on Pony Club teams before, so the dynamic wasn't totally foreign to her.
"It's fun to depend on each other and help each other," she said.
Curtis and The Waterboy took individual gold at least year’s Pony Finals, and Curtis is hoping for a repeat of that performance at tomorrow’s individual final. She's currently tied for first with nine other riders, including Powell, in the individual standings.
“I’m feeling good, and my pony feels good,” said Curtis, of Villa Rica, Ga. “He’s the most amazing pony in the world. He’s so in the game. When he hears the buzzer, I swear he grows five inches. He’ll shake going in the gate and then gallop off. He’s serious about it.”
Katie Maxwell served as chef d’equipe for the Zone 4 team this year.
“I’ve had such a great time working with these four kids and their trainers,” said Maxwell. “Everyone has come together as such a team, and I think that’s what helps the kids get the gold.”
Zone 7 consisted of Elizabeth McDougald on Knock My Sox Off, Mattie Hatcher on Erin Meadows Silk Stockings, Caroline Zaunbrecher on Fire van Battenbroek and Claire Salopek on Sir Lance-A-Lot. Emily Hovis on Bluebelle, Merrill Harvey on Pandamonium, Julianna Empie on Northwind’s Opus and Elizabeth Simonian on A Diamond Is Forever were the four riders on the Pony Club team.
Full individual results available online.